By Dr. Sultan Al Jaber | Mar 21, 2023
In his keynote address, Dr. Al Jaber thanked all the youth who took part in the event, saying: “This gathering and its activities have been a perfect opportunity to listen and engage with the voices of youth on the global challenge of climate change. Your active participation today is a clear demonstration of your deep understanding and commitment to addressing the climate challenge.”
Noting how far the UAE has come in just slightly more than 50 years, Dr. Al Jaber also praised the achievement showcased by Expo 2020 Dubai and, subsequently, the development of the Expo site into its present form. “What was barren land just a few years ago became a global hub and a global destination. Under the guidance of [UAE Vice President and Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai] His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Expo 2020 was the definition of inclusivity, welcoming people from every single country in the world to connect minds and create the future. And under the leadership and auspices of our president His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, COP28 will unite the world again at this very site in November later this year to seek solutions that benefit all of humanity while securing a better future for tomorrow.”
“Our leadership has always balanced economic growth with environmental responsibility, and we have embedded climate action into our development strategy,” said Dr. Al Jaber. “Sustainability, respect for nature, and protecting biodiversity are rooted in our traditions and in our values. We have led the region in developing more energy with minimal or zero emissions, and we are building a pathway to a low carbon, high growth future, creating new skills, new technologies, new industries, new jobs, and new hope.”
He emphasised that, although the future may be impossible to predict, it was clear that the youth of today play a paramount role. “We may not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future: it is you, our young people,” he said. “We know that climate change affects everybody, but it affects our world's 2 billion young people more than most, especially in the most vulnerable countries.”
Speaking to the assembled youth, he said: “Young people like you are always at the forefront of addressing the climate challenge. You are leading the way by sharing your perspectives, bringing your creativity and energy, and contributing to the positive impact that the world needs. Simply put, you are meeting hard times with true hope.”
He went on to speak of great recent achievements by young people all over the world, and particularly in the MENA region: “Young entrepreneurs like Maryanne Gichanga are using agritech to develop drought-resistant crops in Kenya. Students from Fiji have pioneered solar power to provide clean energy for their community. And here in the United Arab Emirates, Lamis Bin Harib has founded the Arab world's first biodegradable packaging company. These are just a few examples of what you can do when you harness your potential to meet the global challenge we face.”
Dr. Al Jaber noted that the youth will play an important role in the upcoming COP28 conference, which will host tens of thousands of delegates from around the world to advance climate progress. He stressed that the world is off track when it comes to meeting climate goals, and to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, it is necessary to reduce global emissions by more than 40%.
“We have to rapidly reduce emissions, increase energy efficiency, and consume more responsibly. We need to quickly adapt to climate impacts while helping others to adapt in more vulnerable countries. And we need to massively scale up finance, share best practices, and leverage technology across the board,” he said. “This is an exercise for every nation on Earth. We need to be pragmatic, practical, realistic, and optimistic. And we need to capture what is needed in a comprehensive action plan for the planet and for its people. This can only work by uniting everyone in a combined effort, and that means everyone including young people like yourselves. Your passion and drive will be essential to reigniting progress.”
At this point in his speech, Dr. Al Jaber announced the new initiative, the International Youth Climate Delegate Programme for COP28. Calling it the largest initiative of its kind, he said that the programme would work closely with Youngo, the youth arm of the UNFCCC, to “empower 100 young people from around the world to fully participate in COP 28.”
“This initiative will give a special focus to least developed countries and small island states, and it will give all participants the training, resources, and opportunity to advocate on behalf of their countries and their communities,” he elaborated.
He added that in the last few months, he and his COP28 team had been on a listening tour across Europe, Africa, America, and Asia. Everywhere he went, he had made a point of meeting young people and said that he was encouraged by what he heard time and again: they wanted to be involved, included, contribute, and make a difference.
“So let me make this pledge to you: COP28 will be defined by the inclusivity and diversity that defines the UAE, a nation of 200 nationalities that is strengthened by all the perspectives they bring,” he promised.
“We all share the risks of climate change,” Dr. Al Jaber told the assembled crowd at Expo City Dubai’s Al Wasl Plaza. “It is time to share the ambitions. To all who call the UAE their home, let me say this: the UAE is a global champion for climate action. Today we need every individual to be a climate action champion.”
He explained that the COP28 presidency was keen to leverage the input, insights, and efforts of every segment of society, which obviously includes young people and “ensuring their active and effective participation.”
He ended his speech with a strident call for all COP28 participants to include youth in their delegations so that the next generation could have a meaningful participation in the climate change conference.
“Let me send this message to the young people here with us this evening,” he said. “As future leaders, future scientists, future entrepreneurs, and future climate activists, your energy, your youth is what will make the difference. Positive change begins with awareness. Learn as much as you can about the climate challenge. Bring your passion, your focus, and your courage to the task of meeting that challenge and turn it into an opportunity. You can bring the energy that turns problems into possibilities. We are counting on you to help deliver real and tangible results. Together, let's connect minds and co-create a better future for all.”
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